International Travel, Travel Photography

A Photographic Journey Along the Inca Trail

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They say that some places you visit are akin to religious experiences. I’d always wanted to Machu Picchu via the Inca Trail because I thought it’d be cool to challenge myself.

Actually hiking the Inca Trail was indeed challenging at times, but moreover, it was an incredible experience, sort of a personal pilgrimage. Which is appropriate given that the trail was originally a religious pilgrimage for the Incas. (Did you know, only the kings were technically called the Incas?)

From bonding with our trekking group to pacing our breaths at 4,000+ meters up in the mountains to reflecting on the efforts of our porters, our 4 days on the Inca Trail were thrilling, gorgeous, sweaty, and most of all, reflective.

There’s something about being on your feet and traversing across mountain ranges that adds perspective. These incredible views certainly helped.

Planning a trip? Here’s all you need to know to prepare. 

Day 1 on the Inca Trail

As soon as you get on the trail, you’re surrounded by Instagrammable scenery.

Llactapata Patallacta ruins Inca Trail
The first major ruins you encounter on the Inca Trail. Named alternately Llactapata or Patallacta in various signs and publications.
Inca Trail creek
We were on the trail during dry season. The rivers and waterfalls are all supposed to run quite aggressively during rainy season.

Day 2 on the Inca Trail

Inca Trail llama
Our first llama encounter! The government actually places llamas on the trail and at Machu Picchu, but we were told this one belonged to a local and was just out for a walk.

The first part of our day 2 was the climb up to Dead Woman’s Pass, commonly known as the hardest part of the Inca Trail. So most of that time was spent looking down at my feet to make sure I didn’t trip and pacing myself to make sure I was taking in enough oxygen.

It was well worth this view at 4215 meters (13,828 feet). (Note: because of the high elevations, it’s crucial that you take a few days in Cusco to acclimate. It won’t be a boring time either! Here are 101 things to do in Cusco.)

It’s super cold at the Inca Trail’s highest point though so we snapped some photos and quickly skedaddled out of there!

I’m bundled up like a marshmallow and still freezing at Dead Woman’s Pass.
Inca Trail valley
Peering through the valley clouds
Sayaqmarka, which reminded me of various medieval castles and fortresses in Europe. (Thinking particularly about the Moorish Castles in Sintra, Portugal.)
Inca Trail Sayaqmarka
Taking a quick breather at Sayaqmarka.

Day 3 on the Inca Trail

Up close and personal with Phuyupatamarka.
Andes valley
Looking down into the valley from Phuyupatamarka.
winay wayna
You have to go down Wiñay Wayna’s terraces quite a bit for this shot, but the view was well worth all the stairs back up.

Related: Looking for more photogenic spots in Peru? Don’t miss the Rainbow Mountain.

Day 4 on the Inca Trail

And finally, the day to go to Machu Picchu had arrived.

We got up ridiculously early, and as soon as the control gates opened, basically ran up to the Sun Gate.

Most people pray for a clear morning, but I was super glad to have some fog first. It gave Machu Picchu a veil of mystery it no longer really has in this connected age. And it made our Inca Trail reward all the more incredible once the fog lifted.

machu picchu

We made it!

machu picchu

More to come on Inca Trail must-knows, packing lists, and a review of Alpaca Expeditions, our trek provider. In the meantime, which view was your fav?

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photographic journey of the inca trail - en route to Machu Picchu

4 thoughts on “A Photographic Journey Along the Inca Trail

    1. I hope you get the opportunity to do so, Michelle! I longed to go for years as well before finally getting the opportunity, and it was amazing.

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